Importers prefer Lagos ports over eastern ports, according to shippers and other marine industry specialists, including freight forwarders. They attribute this preference to security concerns and high freight costs.
They stated that trade was enabled more quickly at Lagos ports than at its eastern counterparts.
Jonathan Nicol, the president of the Shippers Association of Lagos, claimed that Lagos was the market and those typical traders would prefer to move where they could earn a greater profit.
“The market is in Lagos and you know that traders don’t want to spend more than what they have budgeted for particular consignments. If, for instance, a trader budgeted N300, 000, he wouldn’t like to spend more than the budget as it will become a lost project.
“So, the way to cut those expenses is to find an outlet that is always in Lagos to do business and get back his capital. The profit may not be much, but he needs to get back his capital.”
Also speaking, the Founder of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, Mr Frank Ukor, said, “It is easier and cheaper for them to get their goods cleared from Apapa port, which is why they go there. They make trade facilitation easier at Apapa and other ports than the ones in the East or any other parts of the country.”
Dominic Onyeka, the chairman of the association’s Apapa branch and a licenced customs agent from Nigeria, claimed that Apapa port was even more affordable than Tin Can port.
He said, “For cost-saving, you know it is cheaper to use Apapa port than Tin Can port because freight charges are cheaper. And you know it is difficult to change old habits. When you are used to something, for you to change or do something different is difficult.
“Some of them have not been able to exploit other eastern ports. It is because of insecurity and restlessness in the South-East as most of the big customers have relocated from that place to Lagos. I am sure with the security improvement in Anambra and other eastern areas, there could be a change. You know nobody would like to fish in troubled waters. These are the things I think are responsible. The freight in the eastern ports is higher.”
The Tin Can Island chapter Chairman of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (MCMDLCA), Abayomi Duyile, blamed shipping companies for adding extra charges on cargoes going to eastern ports.
“The freight cost and, secondly, the issue of piracy along those eastern ports are other problems because most of those importers are scared of taking their cargoes to that side. There was a time once you scheduled your vessel to that side, they would tell you that they had to increase the freight rate.”
He also said that importers contributed to the preference of Lagos ports to the Eastern ports.
“You know in Lagos, there is no case of pirate attacks. You will just come, berth your vessel and do what you want to do. But I think most of the problems have to do with the importers. There was a time I sent a message to one of my clients, telling him that he could use Warri port, the client outrightly said he was not interested in taking his cargo to Warri. Even in Warri now, as we speak, the areas boys there are worse than the ones in Lagos.”
He said, “Another reason why they prefer Lagos is because it is a hub centre. It is easier for you to sell your goods here in Lagos than other parts of the country.”